Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/programs/OlympicDevelopmentProgram/) is flourishing under the Arizona sun. This past weekend I attended the open try-outs of Arizona Youth Soccer ODP (http://www.azyouthsoccer.org/odp/program_overview.aspx). I was pleased to accept the invitation from Austin Daniels, technical director and Karla Thompson, assistant technical director to attend the trials at the wonderful soccer facilities at Grande Sports World (http://grandesports.com/) in Casa Grande. The visit allowed me to work with the state staff coaches, to observe the players and to speak with the players’ parents.
The weekend US Youth Soccer ODP trials began with a meeting on Friday evening for the state staff coaches. Coach Thompson heads up the Program for the state association. She ran an efficient and productive meeting for a room full of coaches from across the state who work in the clubs, high schools and colleges. Age group assignments, designated fields were noted and the detailed weekend schedule was reviewed. A very good professional standard was set. The staff stayed at the complex hotel and had their meals together. That allowed time and opportunity for the staff coaches to bond, extend their professional connections, review the player evaluations and share their ideas on coaching high performance players.
Saturday morning began with me running the coaches through a session on the field. The training session focused on playing out of the defending third and into midfield. That piece of the American style of play is the foundation unearthed in the US Youth Soccer ODP Coaching Manual. All four US Youth Soccer regions and the 55 state associations use the Manual as a progressive plan to help all of the players in the program evolve to an international level of play. The Manual gives us a uniform approach to develop players in the Program across the nation for both boys and girls. The starting point is how to keep possession of the ball and play our way out of the back third into midfield with good control of the ball and a tactically sound attacking shape around the ball. Coaches may download the US Youth Soccer ODP Coaching Manual here.
Saturday afternoon arrived and the administrators did an outstanding job of checking in hundreds of players at a time. Each day was divided into three 90 minute sessions with three age groups of boys and girls attending the trials in each session. In the end, over 1,000 players turned up for the open try-outs, which was very impressive on its own account and even more so given the 110 degree days. The coaches and the players handled the climate well with water breaks every 10 minutes, player rotations in the training activities and eating appropriately to meet the athletic demands of the game.
The training activities consisted of small and large groups working on the tactic of buildup play from the back to the half way line. Once the groups were playing 9 vs. 9 at the end of the sessions on Sunday the players were showing real improvement on the tactics for this aspect of attacking play. Goalkeepers consistently played short distributions, attackers worked to inter-pass to keep possession while penetrating up field and quality soccer ensued.
Each age group had two full sessions, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. On Saturday once the training sessions began Coach Daniels, Coach Thompson and I met with the parents of the players. Coach Daniels gave a quick overview of the Program and then had Coach Thompson give details pertinent to the age groups for the parents in the room. I then spoke about the national scope of the Program, why there was a particular training theme and the reality of moving up the soccer pyramid which requires the adults to have a long term perspective. I told the parents that they must help their child with the proper balance of short and long term goals to stay on the pathway for high performance soccer. This is a twisting and turning pathway which demands confidence and perseverance from the players and their parents. Success is not instant nor lasting in high performance soccer. Coach Daniels and I then completed each parent meeting with time for Q and A.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
The entire weekend went very well. Even though the challenge of the Olympic Development Program is steep, the players showed their best, learned more about the game and carried on down the path toward the possibility of playing in a World Cup or the Olympic Games. I encourage you as a player, coach, administrator or referee to participate in US Youth Soccer ODP as soon as you can.
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, courage is that quiet voice that says...I will try again tomorrow. – Mary Anne Radmacher